President Andrew Jackson
told the Ridge family he wanted the Cherokees out of Georgia no
matter what, even though the Georgia Supreme Court said they
Cherokee Chief Major Ridge was a
patriotic man. He did what he thought was best for the Cherokee
people, therefore, he, son John Ridge, nephews
Boudinot (changed his name from "Buck" Watie) and Stand
Watie (Major Ridge's brother was David Oo-Watie), and several
other Cherokees signed the Treaty of
which traded Indian lands in Georgia for acreage in Arkansas and
Oklahoma. The treaty was signed on December 29, 1835, in Elias
Boudinot's home in New Echota, Georgia. New Echota was the
Cherokee capital between 1825-1839.
Major Ridge wrote the Cherokee
law that called for treason if an Indian sold his land. After
signing the treaty, he said "I have signed my death warrant."
Five months later, Major Ridge also said "I expect to die for
The Ridge/Watie Family and the
treaty party moved west comfortably under the protection of the
U.S. Government. The rest of the Cherokee people were expected
to do the same.
The Cherokee people were upset
because the treaty was not voted on by the majority. They also
did not want to leave Georgia. Principle
John Ross stalled and asked the government for more money
and provisions. Jackson did not like John Ross. Jackson called
him a "villain," "greedy," and a "half-breed" who cared nothing
for the moral or material interests of his people. `The treaty
had a final removal date and that forced the rest of the
Cherokees to leave. The treaty led to the infamous "Trail
of Tears." Four thousand out of sixteen thousand died on the
journey including Mrs. Ross.
After the Cherokees were
relocated to Oklahoma, a band of Cherokees assassinated Major
Ridge, John Ridge, and Elias Boudinot on June 22, 1839. A
Choctaw, who saw Elias assassinated, rode Samuel Worcester's
horse "Comet" to warn Stand Watie. Stand escaped on the horse.
For years, Cherokees were divided
by those that followed the Ridge/Treaty party and those that
followed Principle Chief John Ross. Many believed that John Ross
had them assassinated but it was never proven. The assassins
were never brought to trial. When John Ross heard of Major
Ridge's fate, he said "Once I saved Ridge at
Clay, and would have done so again had I known of the plot."
The feud went on for years, even after Oklahoma became a state
in 1907. John's own brother Andrew Ross signed the treaty but
was not assassinated. In fact, the removal was an idea of
Andrew's. William Shorey Coody, a nephew of John Ross, was also
affiliated with the treaty party.
President Jackson knew that the
Cherokee would survive and endure. He was right. Today, there
are three governmental bodies - Cherokee Nation West, Cherokee
Nation East, and the Original Cherokee Community of Oklahoma.
That's more than you can say about the Yemassee, Mohegans,
Narragansetts, Pequots, Delawares, and any number of other dead
The Civil War did as much damage
to the Cherokees as did the "Trail of Tears." Eighty percent of
the Cherokee people wanted to fight for the Confederates. John
Ross was a northern sympathizer. Cherokees fought against each
Past historians have always had
unkind words for the Ridge Family and treaty party. Historians
are now saying that the treaty may have saved the Cherokee
people from total destruction. If interested in learning more
about the Cherokee Nation, read "Cherokee Tragedy: The Ridge
Family and the Decimation of a People," by Thurman Wilkins,
University of Oklahoma Press, 1988.
Cherokee Chief Major Ridge
(1771-1839) is buried at Polson Ridge-Watie Cemetery in OK, near
Southwest City, Missouri. John Ridge (1802-1839), is buried next
to him. Major Ridge's home in Rome, Georgia, is the Chieftains
Museum/Major Ridge Home, a national Historic Landmark and a
certified historic and interpretive site on the Trail of Tears
National Historic Trail. His Indian name is KA-NUN-TLA-CLA-GEH,
meaning "The Lion Who Walks on the Mountain Top." The white man
shortened it to Ridge. General Andrew Jackson of the United
States Army gave Ridge his name "Major" after Ridge led a force
of Cherokees in the Battle of the Horseshoe against the Creeks.
Indians had previously used no surnames. Major Ridge's and John
Ridge's portraits are in the Smithsonian archives.
Other Web Links
Referencing Major Ridge
Major Ridge or The Ridge
Encyclopedia of North American Indians